Do You Believe In Magic?

For the past few months, Cory and I have been struggling with Cody’s behavior and figuring out how to best discipline him. I’ve discovered that three year olds, AKA threenagers, are a whole other level of challenging. Forget “terrible twos,” it’s the threes that really get you! At least, that has been my experience so far.

Anyway, I started reading more parenting books, re-reading some of my old ones, and doing research on discipline methods. As an attachment parent, my first instinct has always been to try using “positive discipline” methods which do not include punishment. I’ve read books that have taught discipline methods such as simply staying calm, using specific ways of speaking, or relying on a toolbox of tricks. Some of them were helpful some of the time, but I struggled with not having a more streamlined, consistent, and most importantly effective way of disciplining. When my attempts at applying what I’ve learned failed, I would resort to anger, which wasn’t effective either and left me feeling guilty. (In other words, I’m the “bulldog” parent. Cory, on the other hand, tends to be the “pushover” parent.)

Finally, I found a resource that started to help. I found a website, centerforparentingeducation.org, which provides a lot of realistic, practical, and evidence-based advice about a variety of parenting challenges. It helped me to better understand the developmental stage that Cody is in, and it also opened the door for me to accept that punishment, in the form of gentle consequences, does have a very important place in parenting. I highly recommend parents check it out to educate themselves and improve their parenting skills!

Still, even after my research, I was having a hard time applying a lot of what I learned to real-life situations with Cody. That’s when I came across a book called 1-2-3 Magic. I believe that this program is an answer to my prayers about how to handle Cody’s discipline! The ebook popped up as a suggestion for me when I was looking for a book to read on my tablet; I bought it and devoured it in two days. Since then, I have already seen excellent results, and I have felt very empowered and calm as a parent.

The 1-2-3 Magic system is simple, gentle, and effective. It involves cutting out unhelpful parental behaviors like nagging, yelling, lecturing, and spanking. Instead, discipline comes in the form of time-outs, or other consequences, which are enforced with very few words. There are also a handful of tools in the program for encouraging positive behavior. Most importantly, the program focuses on strengthening the parent-child bond, which is irreplaceable not only for disciplining effectively, but for enjoying our children!

We have been using 1-2-3 Magic for a week now, and of course we are still not perfect and never will be. But when we use it right, I am able to stay completely calm and still gain Cody’s compliance. It has honestly been a game-changer for me, even in this short amount of time. I was at the point where I admitted sadly to Cory that I wasn’t enjoying Cody anymore because of the constant struggles with his behavior. Now, I feel like a new parent, and I’ve been enjoying my son again because discipline is calm and quick. It is really a wonderful thing!

You can find out more about 1-2-3 Magic here. The book is available on every major ebook platform, or in physical form through many retailers. If it wasn’t clear already, I highly recommend this book for all parents!

 

There are no affiliate links in this post. I am simply a fan and I want to share my discovery!

Also note that 1-2-3 Magic is for children over the age of about 18 months to two years. “Discipline” for babies should consist mainly of prevention, redirection, and distraction. Consequences aren’t appropriate for these little ones, because they can’t understand at this age! 😉

Happy Two Months Birthday, Abigail!

On Saturday, Abigail turned two months old. It has really flown by even faster this time around! That’s probably because Cody is still keeping me busy. 😉

Abby has been an easy baby so far. She sleeps a lot, and in long stretches. I would estimate she sleeps about 14-16 hours per 24 hour period. At night, she wakes about two times to nurse, and usually a couple of other times just to wiggle around for a few minutes. Getting her to sleep at bedtime has been easy lately; I nurse her in our rocking chair, then bring her into bed and turn on the white noise and nurse her some more if she wants. She’s fallen asleep like that with no problems for the past few weeks.

Unlike Cody when he was a baby, she doesn’t nurse every time I offer. She tends to nurse less frequently than he did in general, and the sessions are also shorter. Still, she’s been gaining weight really well, and currently weighs just over 13 lbs, which is in the 90th percentile. She’s a chunker! In fact, she’s wearing size 3-6 month clothing now, as she grew out of her newborn and 0-3 month clothes very quickly.

Although she spends a lot of her time sleeping, she also has long periods of being awake and alert now. She is becoming quite vocal, and likes to have “cooing conversations” with us. She’s giggled a handful of times, but it’s still rare enough to be exciting when she does it. She smiles frequently, sometimes in reaction to people and other times for secret reasons only babies know.

As for crying, she doesn’t do much of it. She usually gives us many warnings before starting to cry. She will start “shouting” at us, with more frequent and louder noises, until we pick her up. The only times she cries are when we put her in her carseat, and the rare times when she’s truly upset because she wants to be held or nurse. She’s never cried for more than a minute, and usually it’s only for a few seconds. Of course, we spend a lot of time holding her and that helps keep her happy. But she’s also often content to lay in her playpen or her mat on the floor, or sit in her swing, for half an hour or so when we need to get things done.

Cory wears her in the ergobaby often, and she does well with that. She doesn’t like it when I wear her as much, I suspect because being so close to my chest makes her want to nurse. She often starts rooting around and getting fussy when I wear her, unless she’s really tired and falls asleep. But usually I can wear her to take Cody to the park and she’s content for a little while. Around the house, I typically prefer to just hold her and she seems to like that better.

Abigail took a bottle one time, but several other attempts have been rejected. She hasn’t taken to a pacifier either, though we haven’t tried very hard with that. She likes to suck on her hand, so a pacifier seems unnecessary.

She can now hold her head up, and she can push up a bit on her arms when she’s on her tummy. She’s close to rolling, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. She will use her legs to stand now when we hold her upright, but she still needs a lot of support because she’s pretty floppy.

Cody has done wonderfully with her so far, and the transition has been very smooth. He is great at being gentle with her, and he likes to stroke her arms and head and tell me that he loves her. It’s super sweet! He’s a good big brother. 🙂

That’s about it! Life with two littles has been more challenging, but so far it’s not as hard as I thought. Probably because Abby is such an easy baby! Either way, we’re blessed.

Abigail’s Birth Story

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. It contains details about the birth process and my personal experience, which some people may not be comfortable reading. If this is you, please don’t read it! Otherwise, continue. 🙂

My birthing with Abigail was quite a journey. I expected to have her early, but ended up giving birth at exactly 41 weeks of pregnancy, longer than I went with Cody. The time I spent waiting at the end was very difficult emotionally, and as irrational as it was, I truly felt at times that I’d never have her. Of course, I did have her in God’s timing. Now that she’s here I am overjoyed!

Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp was born on Labor Day, Monday, September 4th, 2017 at 3:16 PM. She was born at home, completely unmedicated. She weighed 7 lbs and 12 oz and was 20 ¼ inches long at birth. Here is how it all happened.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, I began to experience more frequent warm up pressure waves than I’d previously been having. I also passed a small amount of blood, which seemed to be the beginning of my bloody show. Over the next several weeks, I continued to experience more warm up waves, with some periods of prodromal waves. There were many times I thought my birthing time was beginning, but they all were false alarms. At 38 weeks, I began trying many natural methods of encouraging birthing to begin. I tried walking, sex, certain foods, and hypnosis. At 40 weeks, I began trying some more aggressive natural methods of induction, including nipple stimulation and acupressure.

Finally at 40 weeks and 5 days, on September 2nd, I tried the most aggressive option so far and had my midwife sweep my membranes, which led to my full bloody show. That night, I had a good pressure wave pattern for several hours, and was very hopeful, but then it faded. The next afternoon, I had an appointment with my doula to try more natural induction techniques. I was optimistic, since she’s never had a client who this appointment didn’t work for. We tried many things, but after over 5 hours, we still had not established a good pressure wave pattern, and we decided to call it a night. My doula, Lynsey, left my house around 10:30 PM, and I went to bed with my hypnosis track playing as usual. I felt discouraged and resigned when I went to bed.

At about 1 AM that night, on September 4th, I woke up because of strong waves I was feeling. I began timing them, while listening to a hypnosis track. They continued to be strong, about 40 seconds to a minute long, and between 3 to 7 minutes apart. After an hour, I called my midwife, Alicia, and we decided it was time for her to come over. She arrived around 3 AM, and I continued to listen to my hypnosis tracks and mellow worship music while using my hypnosis tools.

I’d already woken up Cory around 2 to tell him what was going on, and encouraged him to get more sleep. By 4, I was ready for him to start actively supporting me, so I woke him up. I also called Lynsey at this time. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to move to the bedroom and start using my birth pool, so we tried to move our sleeping son Cody to the guest bedroom. He woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep, so we called Cory’s mom, Marsha, to come take care of him. While she drove out, we set up the birth pool and I had some time with Cody in the pool. He helped me decorate the pool with submersible orange lights, which I’d chosen to help me envision my Hypnobabies’ orange hypno-anesthesia.

Around 6 AM, Marsha arrived. Although the timing is a blur, I know I spent this active birthing time moving between my pool, the bed, and my chair, while remaining in hypnosis and listening to my tracks out loud, and hearing birth prompts from Cory. At some point, my midwife’s assistant arrived, another midwife I’d met years ago named Jennifer. The midwives offered gentle support and otherwise rested and stayed unobtrusive. Cody was happy and busy with Marsha, and Cory stayed with me almost constantly. I started to have more bloody show during that time.

Around 10 AM, Alicia offered to check my dilation, and I agreed. Lynsey arrived while that was happening. To my great surprise and joy, Alicia said she couldn’t feel any cervix– meaning, I was completely dilated and effaced. I cried happy tears and hugged Cory and Lynsey, because I knew then that Abigail would be coming soon.

Alicia was able to feel that baby was asynclitic, and not quite fully engaged as a result, so we tried some belly sifting. From that point on, I spent time resting between waves on the couch or bed, and trying different positions in the pool. My support team kept me constantly hydrated, nourished me with light snacks, and reminded me to use the bathroom. Of course, they also kept hypnosis tracks playing for me and read birth prompts.

My pressure waves throughout this entire time were strong, and close together. I began to feel some exhaustion after the first few hours, and then began feeling a lot of back discomfort. Hours after being completely dilated, I still had not started to feel any pushing urges, and my emotional state started to struggle to remain peaceful. I began thinking that I couldn’t go on much longer.

Finally at about 2 PM, I broke down. Sitting in my pool, I told my team I couldn’t do it anymore, in tears. They rallied around me. They told me I was doing it, and they were going to help me. They told me it was time to start pushing and get the baby out. I said it hurt too much, and they told me I could do it, and to use my hypnosis. Finally, their encouragement broke through and I felt a sense of resolve, that I could do it and I would. I told Jesus that I needed his help.

On the next wave, I started pushing. At first, it increased the discomfort to be almost unbearable, but after just a second, it lifted. I took as deep of breaths as I could and then pushed while making loud, low, opening sounds. Sometimes I became very loud! Then I tried pushing after taking a deep breath, using the breath to bear down, and pushing several times during each wave. My lower back was in pain during my waves now, so Lynsey massaged it while I pushed. In between waves, I rested and took deep breaths, breathing oxygen to baby while my midwives monitored her heart rate. I moved between several different positions for pushing. Sometimes I squatted and leaned back against the wall of the pool. Other times I leaned forward on the pool wall, or simply went on hands and knees. I also tried Lynsey’s suggestion of squatting and pulling hard on a rebozo (scarf) that Cory held. I stayed in the pool the whole time. Cody and Marsha came in at some point to witness the process.

I pushed for a little over an hour, before I started crowning. I reached down and felt baby’s soft head and her silky hair. My midwives guided me to push more gently at this point, to allow myself to stretch naturally, and I did. I felt some burning, but it didn’t hurt. I told myself to stretch, and I did. Baby’s head came out into my hand, and I held her head, waiting for the rest of her to slip out. After what felt like only a few moments, but was apparently six minutes, suddenly there was some urgency I was vaguely aware of.

Everything snapped into motion as Alicia said she wanted me out of the pool, now, and my team basically lifted and dragged me out, straight to the bed on my hands and knees. Cory told me everything was fine. I was told to stop pushing. In my head, I had one thought, that Abigail needed to be okay. I was maneuvered into a runner’s squat position, and my midwives were doing things I wasn’t aware of, trying to ease baby out. There was no pain, just waiting, until finally they told me to push as hard as I could. I did and Abigail was born, finally, and I flipped onto my back and held her on my chest. She didn’t cry right away, and I rubbed her gently and talked to her until finally, she let out her first tiny cry. Her cord was short, so I couldn’t move her much, but I held her and kissed her warm wet head. She started looking for the breast quickly, and with just a little guidance she latched on like a pro.

Later, I learned that Abigail was having a hard time coming out because she had her hands up under her chin. The midwives had to reach in and push her hands down to allow her to come out. Although that may sound painful, I didn’t feel it. Through all of that, I only had a small tear that barely required two stitches. Although her birth was somewhat traumatic, both she and I came through it easily, thanks to my incredible and competent birth team.

After Abigail was born, we waited a short time for my placenta to be born. Unfortunately, I started to hemorrhage both before and after birthing the placenta, meaning I was bleeding too much. My midwives gave me a shot of pitocin and massaged my uterus, all with me still in hypnosis and using my tools for comfort. I continued to nurse Abigail, which is helpful for controlling bleeding after birth. After a few minutes, my bleeding had slowed but not completely stopped, so I was given another shot of pitocin. Finally, the bleeding stopped, and we rested.

After that final drama, things were calm. Abigail had her newborn exam next to me while Jennifer cleaned me up. Then we nursed some more, and Cory and I were left alone to bond with baby while the house was cleaned up a bit. Cody met his baby sister, a fascinating and strange creature to him. I cried happy tears again, thanking God for our daughter and sitting in awe of how lucky we are to have two beautiful children. Cory held Abigail and we took some photos.

After a little while, we decided it was time to cut the cord. It was still attaching Abigail to the placenta, which was lying wrapped up nearby. We were happy that we’d allowed every possible drop of blood to flow into baby before cutting the cord, but we were ready to have more mobility for Cory to hold her. He clamped and cut the cord himself. Later, I was stitched up while happily nursing Abby, and she got her vitamin K shot while still nursing. She let go to cry a two-second protest before going back to the breast.

After all was settled, my birth team said goodbye and left. I nestled happily in my bed with my baby girl, and my husband and son close by. Could there be anything better?

There are so many things I’m thankful for, looking back at this experience. First and foremost, a happy and healthy baby and mama, which is always the main goal. I’m also thankful for my midwives, who knew exactly what to do in a potentially scary situation. They saved our lives, really. I’m thankful for my doula, who supported me so well both physically and emotionally. She also managed to take photos and videos throughout my entire birthing process, which I can now treasure forever. My amazing husband and birth partner, Cory, was a superhero. He pushed himself physically to support me through his own exhaustion. He stayed calm always, told me frequently how I was doing such a great job, gave me hypnosis cues, and stayed by my side throughout the birth of our child. All together, my team was a formidable force. They held me up in so many ways when I was sure I could not do it. With them, I could. I’m thankful for Hypnobabies, without which I can only imagine the difficulty I would have had giving birth. Some women have easy births, but I apparently do not. And I did not have a painless birth, either, but with Hypnobabies, I was able to have a more easy and comfortable experience, and succeed in my dream of having a natural birth at home.

Most of all, I’m thankful to God. He kept me and Abigail safe. Jesus held me during the hardest parts of my birthing, and without his presence I can’t imagine how I would have coped. He is my savior, not only for eternity, but for my life right now. He enabled me with strength I would not have had on my own. And he blessed me and Cory with such an unbelievable gift, our precious baby girl, not to mention our son almost three years ago. We are so very blessed, for God is good.

I am so very relieved, proud, and satisfied with my birth experience. Knowing that I did this makes me feel empowered to do anything. I feel very lucky to have experienced both a happy hospital birth with Cody and now a completely natural home birth with Abigail. It’s wonderful experience to have as a birth educator as well! How very blessed I’ve been. <3

Welcome to the world, little Abigail. You are so very precious.

No Offense

Hey you!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been away from blogging for awhile now, focusing on some other priorities. After Abigail is born and I’ve settled into my new life (and new careers in both life coaching and birth education), I plan to get back into regular blogging mode! Until then, I will continue posting updates on my life and things I am particularly interested in writing about, when I have time. 🙂

So first, life update!

Since my last post, I graduated from the Christian Coach Institute as a Professional Christian Life Coach. I am not actively seeking clients at the moment, because of the imminent birth of my daughter, but at the same time I’m certainly not going to be turning anybody away who’s seeking coaching. My plans for my coaching business right now are to begin building it up and finding clients sometime in early 2018. After I’ve coached for a few months, I plan to complete my certification, which adds a credential to my name and gives me more marketing opportunities.

I also was just certified as a Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor, which means I can now officially teach Hypnobabies classes. It was a lot of work, and I am so happy to have achieved this accomplishment. Just as with life coaching, I plan to begin offering classes in my community in early 2018. I am very excited about that, because natural birth with hypnosis is something I am super passionate about!

Cody is doing well, and we are both growing a lot through this late toddler stage. Although tantrums, whining, and crankiness are a normal part of our lives at this point, it’s also a time full of fun, laughter, silliness, and new discoveries. His personality is developing more and more, and he’s still a very sweet, affectionate, and intelligent boy.

Abigail is also growing well in my belly. I’ve gained a lot of weight (which is a good thing of course!), and she’s an active baby. She also looks beautiful and perfect, based on our last (and likely final) ultrasound. While we still have approximately 8 weeks to go until she’s likely ready to come out, we are pretty much done with our preparations for her arrival. All that’s left to do is wait, rest, stay healthy, and keep practicing my hypnosis techniques for our beautiful birthing!

Our pets are doing well, all healthy and happy (except for Marley’s usual neurosis of course). Our house is coming along with some final projects we want to get done before Abigail’s birth, after which we plan to pretty much leave everything alone for a good long while. Houses are expensive to improve, did you know? =J

That’s pretty much the gist on my life at the moment. The next focus really is bringing baby into the world now, and I’m looking forward to this next stage very much.

And now, onto something else I wanted to talk about. Briefly, though, because this is already kind of long. 😉

As any parent knows well, people love to judge. Family members and strangers, and sometimes even friends, can all be quick to tell you what you are doing wrong as a parent. It’s something that I already knew to expect when I became a parent, and truthfully hasn’t bothered me much so far.

When Cody was a baby, there were less things to judge about, perhaps. Yes, I got comments about our choices of co-sleeping and extended nursing, and some about vaccinations, “helicopter parenting,” and so on. There were complaints about him crying occasionally, but most people understand that babies cry, so that wasn’t too bad. For the most part, the baby years weren’t a time when I felt very judged as a parent, and certainly not in any ways that bothered me.

But these toddler years, they are something else. Cody is a two year old, going on three, and he acts like it. There are tantrums, public outbursts, and generally embarrassing behavior frequently. Most of the time, I handle it pretty well, because I know that it’s pointless and unnecessary to feel embarrassed or get angry at him about what I know to be normal behavior for his stage of development. I know that as a parent, my job is not to control my child, but to nurture, protect, and guide him. That includes discipline, of course. It does not include punishment, expecting him to act like an adult, or reacting to his behavior in ways that are not logical or productive.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with my parenting choices. Whether it has to do with his behavior in public, my disciplinary style, how I choose to protect my child, what I choose to feed him (or allow him to eat), or even things like the length of his hair, there are opinions on all sides about it. People might choose to share those opinions by staring, glaring, commenting to others, complaining to me, giving me advice, or telling me what they feel I’m doing wrong. All of those things have the potential to be offensive, especially when I’m already in a stressful situation with my screaming toddler.

But I learned something recently about this. It is my choice, whether or not I will be offended. Realizing that, to me, makes all the difference.

The truth of the matter is, kids will be kids. Some people do not understand that, or they forget. Sometimes, people are having a bad day or are in a bad mood, and they might not treat frazzled parents with as much grace as they should. Other times, people just have strong opinions about parenting (or hair length). It’s really not about me or my child–it’s about them. It’s not my problem, it’s theirs. Because you know what? My job is to be the best parent I can be to my child. My responsibility is not to please my relatives or friends, let alone random strangers; it’s to do what I believe is best as a parent. As long as I’m not being abusive, I don’t have to defend or explain my choices to anybody but God, myself, and my spouse.

With that mindset, it’s much easier to choose to not be offended. When others judge me, my child, or my parenting, I don’t have to take it personally. I don’t have to let it bother me. I can remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, and feel at peace with that. I will never please everybody, and that’s okay. Because I am a good mother, imperfect as we all are. I am doing my very best, and I know that God will do the rest. And even though my son is only 2 ½, I am already proud of who he is. Most of all, he knows that he is loved. To me, that says everything.

Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

It’s been another busy month since my last post! I hope to resume writing more useful posts for you again soon, but right now seems to be a season for other priorities. Still, I like to keep you updated on what’s going on with me, and I hope you find it interesting!

In early April, my family took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I could attend a five day training for Hypnobabies Instructors. It was a grueling week between the travel and the demands of the training program. But we did it, and now I can check something very big off of my goals list! After I finish my certification requirements, I will be able to launch my own business teaching Hypnobabies childbirth classes. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to help families experience better births, share my passion with others, and contribute financially to my family.

Today, I will also graduate from the other career training program I’ve been busy with, for becoming a Professional Life Coach. After graduating, I will need to complete certification requirements for this as well. I am very eager to get it all done, and I am excited about my future business plans! I have a vision to combine my birth education classes, my life coaching services, my blogging experience, my passion for writing, and my love for teaching. All together, I plan to create one new business, with the goal of helping women through the transition into new and new-again motherhood. I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

As both of my trainings have or are soon ending, it is now time to shift my focus to finishing all of the requirements for certification in both areas. It’s important for me to finish both before the birth of my baby, because I know that after Abigail comes I’m going to need to focus completely on her and our family for at least a few months. That means I have about three months to get it all done, while still leaving enough time to breath and prepare for my birth and baby’s arrival.

It’s been a rough few weeks, unfortunately, as I’ve been trying to move forward. We chose to adopt a cat from the animal shelter after we returned from New Mexico, which was something we’d been planning to do soon after we bought our house. We brought home a sweet, though fairly shy, adult female kitty who we named Luna. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that both Cody and I were reacting allergically to her. It was only unclear how big of a problem it would be.

At first, Cody began suffering from a bad cough that kept him (and us) up at night, and left him feeling uncomfortable all day. He also had some nasal congestion. After about a week, nothing had improved, and we began to seriously consider rehoming Luna.

Then, confusing matters, Cody was hit by a stomach bug which lasted about 12 hours. As soon as he recovered, I was hit with it. At that point, Cody’s cough was mostly gone, but his congestion worsened, and he was absolutely miserable for several days. After I recovered from the stomach bug, I came down with the cough. For about five nights in a row, I could barely sleep at night.

Now almost two weeks later, I’ve been sleeping well again, but my cough remains. I have diagnosed myself with bronchitis. Cody is still suffering from some nasal congestion, but is doing much better. I am hoping I will recover by the end of this week, as well. All of that to say, we still don’t know how much of our respiratory troubles have to do with allergies to the cat, not to mention extreme amounts of pollen in our area currently, versus how much of it is just whatever virus seems to be going around. Either way, it has been no fun! But for the time being, we have hope we will be able to keep Luna.

Through all of this, Abigail has continued to grow healthy and strong. She’s a very active baby, just like Cody was, and seems completely unfazed by everything going on outside of her cozy bubble. Thank God for that! I am now 24 weeks pregnant, just over 5 months.

So that’s where I am right now, and where I’m headed for the next few months.
Thanks for reading!

What I’ve Been Into The Last Two Months

Hey there! I’ve been MIA on my blog the past couple of months because of a combination of extreme busy-ness and a difficult pregnancy. I don’t know when I will be resuming my usual posting schedule, but I wanted to send out a life update since so much has happened. This is super duper long, because there has been a lot going on. :O

Since January, I’ve been busy with my life coach training, which I am now over halfway through. It’s coming along really well and I’m confident and excited to finish my training and become certified. If anybody reading this is interested in a few complimentary life coaching sessions, I would love to practice my skills while helping you move forward in life! So hit me up. 🙂

Anyway, the training course takes up about 5-6 hours of my time per week, so it’s been a big deal in my life. On the other hand, my Hypnobabies Instructor training hasn’t been taking up any of my time, since I completed almost all of the prerequisites before January. However, this coming week will be a big change because we are flying to New Mexico for the intensive almost-week-long in-person training portion. It’s going to be Cody’s first flight, and the first time I have to be away from him for about 9 hours a day while Cory takes care of him all day. It’s going to be a very interesting switch!

My pregnancy is going well in terms of baby’s health and my health. In terms of my comfort, it has not been a walk in the park. In fact, this pregnancy has changed my and Cory’s minds about any future pregnancies. While we still want to have more children through adoption, we are done with pregnancy. As a birth educator (in training), I deeply value and appreciate the wonder of pregnancy; it’s an amazing gift to be able to bring life into the world, and a truly miraculous process. That being said, my experience has not been very enjoyable. In fact, I find pregnancy to be months and months of discomfort, often to the point of being debilitating and limiting my ability to enjoy life. I certainly envy the many women who enjoy being pregnant, and I always thought I would be one of them! For me, being pregnant is something I will never regret, but it’s something I prefer not to repeat again. Especially now that we know we are having a girl! One boy and one girl biologically… Could it be any more perfect? I’m feeling good about that decision to pursue adoption from here on out.

As far as our baby girl’s development goes, she seems to be growing and thriving beautifully. At almost 19 weeks, I have a very noticeable baby bump and both Cory and I can feel her kicking and moving in my belly. She’s very active several times each day, and likes to give me little reminders that she’s in there. In just about 5 months, we’ll be meeting our precious daughter, Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp. We can’t wait!

Cody has been adjusting really well to the idea of being a big brother to a baby sister. He knows her name, and talks about her sometimes. In this way and so many others, he’s such a smart and sweet boy! He talks a ton now, understands concepts that surprise me, and shows random moments of sweetness very often. He’s also a two-year-old… and with that comes a BIG attitude, a seemingly unlimited capacity for whining and tantrums, a glaring lack of patience, and at times a thirst for mischief. He’s certainly a handful, just as he always has been, but this stage has also been a lot of fun and it’s been so incredible to watch him growing into a full-blown person with his own ideas, will, and complex emotions.

Because of my pregnancy, nursing became first uncomfortable and then excruciating. In early February, I had to finally wean Cody because nursing was unbearable. He’s accepted this change remarkably well, and was very understanding about how we couldn’t nurse because it hurt mommy. I’m so sad that we had to end our nursing relationship earlier than I had planned, and that we won’t be able to experience tandem nursing. It has been such a special part of our relationship and an intense way of bonding, and I do feel the loss now that he’s physically independent from me. Our relationship has changed, and I see him less as a baby and more as a kid. It’s sad as a mom, but it’s also wonderful to see him growing and becoming more independent.

In other news, we spent the last two months finding, buying, and moving into our very own house! It has been a complicated and stressful process, but everything went incredibly smoothly in the purchase process. Not only has God blessed us with the unexpected ability to buy a house in the first place, something which we hadn’t anticipated being able to do for many years, but he kept his hand of blessing on the entire process. We even closed escrow five days early! Truly, the most stressful part of the process has been the moving itself, as well as the many projects we had to complete before moving in and the many more we have to work on now that we’re here. Making the house what we want it to be is both fun and exhausting!

Unfortunately, in the chaos of move-day, we experienced a tragedy that has been heavy on our hearts for the past week. In our old home, our guinea pigs’ cage was upstairs, putting two baby gates between them and the dogs. In our new home, we had not installed the baby gates on the stairs yet and after a very long day of moving, we left the house to go back and get more leftover items from the old house. All it took was a moment of forgetting to close a door. When we got home, we didn’t immediately see the dogs. We realized they were upstairs. We realized the pigs were up there too, and their door wasn’t closed. We ran up, but it was too late. We found our dog Sky standing in their cage, and our three precious guinea pigs were dead.

Replaying these horrendous moments has been my brain’s way of processing. I remember the thoughts racing through my mind. My shout of, “the pigs!” as soon as I realized what was going on and we raced upstairs. My knowledge before I even walked in the room of what I was about to find. My husband’s cries of horror and his emotional meltdown, which I now believe was a panic attack. My shock and panic and I tried to process and stay calm for Cody’s sake and the baby’s sake. Trying to stop my body from shaking all over. Holding the pigs one at a time, calling them by name, crying softly and telling them how sorry I was. Placing them side by side in their carrier for the night and shutting their door tightly. Thinking, “if only we hadn’t forgotten.” My childish prayer as I lay in bed that we would wake up and it would be the same day and we could do it over. The anxiety that overwhelmed me and kept me up half the night, a terrible fear that something worse could happen, particularly that I could lose Cory or my children.

The next day, we chose a spot in our backyard to lay our piggies to rest. One by one, we wrapped them in a cloth, held them one last time, and laid them in the ground. We said goodbye to each, and gave them one last serving of veggies, their very favorite thing in the whole world. We placed a stone over their grave, a spot we can visit when we miss them. In the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time grieving. It comes over me randomly, but less and less with each day. And I know some people won’t understand this. They’re guinea pigs, not dogs, and certainly not people. But they were precious to us. They were so full of personality. In honor of that, I want to take a moment to write about each one, and what we will miss about them all.

Penelope, our Penny. She was the oldest, but only by a couple of months. She was the one we had the longest. We adopted her has a tiny baby, just over a year ago, along with our piggy Charlotte who passed away from a long illness in December. After Char passed, we adopted Amelia and Clementine, and Pen became the alpha. She was a beautiful piggy with a smooth brown and white coat. She was the one who purred and popcorned the most. (Guinea pigs sometimes purr when you pet them, and “popcorn,” or spasmodically hop around, when they are happy or excited). I have a small amount of comfort from the thought that Penny and Charlotte are together again; they were a bonded pair, so that means a lot.

Amelia, our skunk baby. She was black and white with long, unruly fur. She even had a tuft on her lower back that stood up and reminded me of a skunk’s tail. We adopted her as a tiny baby as well, just over three months ago. She was only four months old. Even at her age, she was already nearly the size of the other two, who were fully grown. Amelia was going to be huge, the biggest piggy by far. Between her size and her spunk, I suspect she might have given Penny a run for her money as alpha. She never really liked to be held, but she was the most outgoing of all three. She had a hilarious habit of burying herself in the hay pile where she could hide, sleep, and of course eat.

Clementine, my Clem. Of course Cory loved her too, very much, but Clem was special to me. Penny was the one Cory picked out to begin with, and Amelia stole his heart when we adopted her; but Clem was the one I thought of as mine, after Charlotte passed. She was mostly orange, with some white, and one very small patch of black in the middle of her back. She had one brown ear, and one pink. She was the sweetest and mellowest pig I’ve ever seen. She was the easiest to pick up and would sit calmly and contentedly in your lap. We adopted her three months ago, and she was about to turn one year old this month.

I will miss their excited “wheeking” when they heard us preparing their veggies every night. I will miss seeing them popcorn around their cage when they were really happy about something. I will miss their soft fur and their quiet purrs when we pet them–they each had their special spot they loved to be pet the most. I will miss walking by their cage and seeing them sprawled out, each in their favorite spots, relaxing and enjoying the pig-life. I will miss watching them devour their veggies each night with such enthusiasm. I will even miss laughing at the incredible mess they were capable of making out of their cage in such little time–pigs indeed.

Our loss has been painful and hard to accept, but it’s more than that. Because we were their caregivers, we were the ones who were supposed to keep them safe. We failed them, and they paid with their lives. They died in fear and pain. I can only hope it was fast. We will always have to live with that regret, knowing that such a small and simple mistake cost everything from these creatures we loved. We will have to go on living with our two dogs who we know were only following instinct, but who nonetheless took something precious from us in a way that we can only see as savage. (Marley and Sky were the ones who killed them; Lila was in her crate.) It’s a depressing and horrible situation all around, and as you may tell from the length of this writing, it’s been heavy for me. The only thing we can do now is to never repeat this mistake. As long as we have dogs, we will never again own guinea pigs, or any small animals who could be killed by our dogs. It was irresponsible of us to do in the first place, no matter how careful we were. It only took one moment and one mistake. This is something I will always regret.

So, sorry to leave this post on such a sad ending, but I really needed to write about this and share my pain.

Even though this has been very tough, life is good otherwise. God has blessed us in so many ways. I am thankful. Although losing pets is nothing like losing humans we love, it has been a sharp reminder that life can end very suddenly and without warning. We must treasure it, every moment we can. I certainly have much to treasure today.


In loving memory of Penelope, Clementine, and Amelia.

What I’m Into in January

This month, my pregnancy has become even more real to me, with full-blown nausea and fatigue that often accompany the first trimester. We’ve also chosen a midwife, and will have our first appointment with her tonight. At 7 weeks pregnant, our baby is now the size of a blueberry and has begun developing important organs like lungs, a brain, and a stomach. If we’re lucky, we may be able to hear baby’s heartbeat with a fetal doppler at our appointment tonight, although it still may be too early.

At the end of this month I will be beginning my training as a life coach. Just before I became pregnant with Cody I began this same program, but felt that I had to put it on hold when I started to feel the symptoms of pregnancy. I also felt that I would not be able to work as a life coach while balancing being a stay-at-home-mom. Well, now that I’ve done it for two years, I feel confident that I can balance work and motherhood, and I’m ready to try again. The timing is definitely funny, with me being pregnant again, but this time I am determined to power through. After all, this part only lasts a couple of months, if my pregnancy with Cody is any indication. The second trimester will hopefully be much more comfortable for me! But anyway, my training as a CPCLC or Certified Professional Christian Life Coach, will involve a weekly 3-hour webinar session, as well as outside reading, buddy assignments, and other homework. It’s going to keep me busy, but I’m ready for the challenge!

In the meantime, my training as a Hypnobabies Instructor is coming along well. I’ve almost completed all of the pre-requisites that need to be finished before the in-person training in New Mexico, which takes place in April. So fortunately, I won’t have to balance Hypnobabies training and Life Coach training at the same time (for the most part).

Our family is doing well, including our dogs and guinea pigs. Marley is starting to show his age more with noticeable hearing loss and a more frequent need to go outside, but otherwise still acts like his same self, including bouts of puppy-like energy. Amelia and Clementine have adjusted to their new home smoothly and our three little pigs are a happy herd.

Cody’s antics this month include talking more and more, an obsession with mac and cheese and cheese puffs, getting his second molars in on one side, and beginning to identify a few letters and numbers. He also said “I love you,” to me today of his own volition, which is a moment I will always remember. As we’ve explained our expectancy of a second baby to him, he has expressed different emotions from despair to excitement to curiosity, and he has also told us his preference for brother, sister, or neither–it changes frequently. Overall, I think he will be ready to be a big brother when the time comes, although it will certainly be an adjustment for him.

That’s what the picture looks like for us in January… and here’s what I’m into this month.

What I’m Watching:

This month is bringing back a bunch of my favorite shows, so I’m pretty darn excited!

Bones – One of my all-time favorite shows has begun it’s final season. I’m going to enjoy every single episode of watching my favorite characters solve crimes with nothing but a few bone fragments or a puddle of dissolved remains.

The Bachelor – Ah, my guilty pleasure; this show along with its sisters the Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. I can’t get enough of the manipulated and dramaticized journeys of these individuals to find love. After all, being on this show is the last hope for so many of them, or so they would have you believe. Why? Because what better way to find lasting romance than on reality TV! Right? 😉 Seriously though, I love it. I’m excited to watch Nick’s journey this season! Personally, I’ve always been a fan of his and never understood why he was seen as a “villain.” Whatevs.

Series of Unfortunate Events – Yes, you read that right. It’s now a TV show, premiering this month! As one of my all-time favorite book series from my childhood, I don’t think I could be more excited about this. The casting of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny looks perfect, and to top it off, they’ve got Neil Patrick Harris (from How I Met Your Mother, another favorite of mine) playing Count Olaf. Yeeeee!!!

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare
I’m still working on this one. It’s a thick book, and I only have stolen time to read it during Cody’s naps, after doing more important things like writing this blog post. 😉 So far, I’m really enjoying it! It’s especially cool to see the glimpses of my favorite characters from this universe, from previous books. Plus, the storyline in this book is interesting and of course, the forbidden romance that has yet to be confessed is compelling.

The One Year Hearing His Voice Devotional: 365 Days of Intimate Communication with God by Chris Tiegreen
This book was a gift from the Christian Coach Institute where I will be training soon, and I’ve been enjoying the short, yet meaningful daily readings as part of my morning routine.

What I’m Cooking:

Ramen – Using a recipe I modified from Munchery, I’ve been enjoying this delicious noodle soup with chicken and veggies. It’s soothing to my sensitive preggo stomach, and it’s pretty nutritious too. This is one of those meals that I have to force myself to stop eating when I’m full. I plan to share the recipe soon!

Baked Potatoes – Okay, this is pretty basic. But there is almost nothing I’ve been enjoying more during this nauseous time than a good, baked potato. I especially love using red or yukon gold potatoes. Butter and salt on top, of course. Yummmmmm.

Steak – Before this pregnancy, I rarely indulged in a steak. I thought it was too expensive and a less healthy choice compared to chicken. But now, with a higher daily protein and iron goal, I’ve been incorporating steak into my menu once a week. I’ve been surprised to find that some of the very affordable cuts are still delicious, and not hard to cook. It’s giving me new skills in the kitchen, so that’s a bonus. So far, a simple salt and pepper rub and oven broiling method have worked well for me. Mmmm, meat!

Recipe of the Month – Chicken Dumpling Stew

This recipe is for one of the most taste-bud-pleasing, comforting, and easy recipes in my cook book. It uses a lot of “cheat” ingredients, which is one reason it’s so easy. It also uses a slow cooker, which usually means a low-involvement dinner that basically cooks itself. What’s not to love?

 

Servings: about 6

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 5 hrs

 

Ingredients:

4 skinless boneless chicken thighs

2 tbsp salted butter

1 can cream of mushroom soup (condensed, 10.5 oz)

1 can cream of chicken soup (condensed, 10.5 oz)

1/2 carton chicken broth (16 oz)

1 bag frozen mixed veggies (16 oz)

1 bag frozen diced onions (12 oz)

Seasoned salt

Pepper

Dry parsley (optional)

1 can biscuits

 

Instructions:

Place chicken thighs in slow cooker along with everything but the biscuits: butter, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, chicken broth, mixed veggies, onions, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir to mix somewhat – but it doesn’t have to be perfectly combined at this point. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

chicken-dumpling-stew-in-pot

Tear biscuits into small pieces and drop into stew. Continue to cook on high for 1 hour, or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 and biscuits are cooked through. Use two forks to tear chicken into smaller pieces. Serve and enjoy!

chicken-dumpling-stew-bowl

Notes:

The measurements for the ingredients are based on what was available at my grocery store. If you have a bag of mixed veggies or onions or canned ingredients that are slightly bigger or smaller, don’t worry about it, just toss it in. The stew will still be delicious!

Chicken thighs sometimes aren’t available as boneless and skinless. In that case, it will take a little bit more work to separate the skin and bones from the meat. You can carefully cut off the skin first, and then cut chunks of meat away from the bone, and toss them into the slow cooker just like that. Either way, don’t worry about cutting them up before cooking, because it’s super easy to shred those pieces after they’re cooked. Just probe around with two forks and tear up any big chunks you find, before serving.

Almost all of these ingredients can be purchased organic, or you can prepare them yourself if you prefer. Mixed veggies can be prepared with fresh produce by mixing peas, corn, chopped baby green beans, and thin chopped carrots. You can dice fresh onions. Even cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, and chicken broth can be made from scratch, if you prefer. And of course, buttermilk biscuits can be made by hand as well. I like to use shortcuts when possible, but you can make this recipe as “from scratch” as you’d like! Recipes for all of those things can be found easily online.

The {Bedtime} Struggle Is Real

bedtime-struggle

I’ve mentioned many times that my family is a co-sleeping one. We love sharing our bed with our precious son, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in a separate room from him. Those snuggles, special memories, and the closeness and security we all feel being together are priceless. There are moments we’ve been able to enjoy that would never have happened if we weren’t co-sleepers, like hearing Cody’s first laugh, in his sleep in the middle of the night when he was two months old. Being pat gently on the face and greeted, “hi mama,” first thing in the morning is another thing I treasure.

Plus, when you’re breastfeeding on-demand with a high-need baby, co-sleeping is really the only way to go. Rolling over to nurse and falling back asleep is so much better than trudging down the hall, nursing in a chair, re-settling the baby in the crib, and then dragging yourself back to bed. Co-sleeping has allowed me to be an active nighttime parent without sacrificing sleep any more than necessary. And even though my sleep has been interrupted every night for more than the past two years, it has still been adequate and I have never felt sleep-deprived. It may not be for everyone, but co-sleeping is definitely for us!

Yet one thing I have sometimes felt misled about when it comes to co-sleeping is the idea that doing so will lessen bedtime battles and bedtime anxiety. The idea is that since your child knows you will be with them throughout the night, they don’t fight bedtime as much as other kids who are dreading the long period of separation. Yet for us, bedtime has been an increasingly challenging routine.

It started with Cody occasionally having a hard time falling asleep, or seeming “wired” at bedtime. Then it became a common situation to spend up to an hour trying to put him to sleep. As attachment parents, we don’t believe in sleep training, and we have always helped Cody go to sleep by nursing, rocking, and snuggling in bed. But we came to a point where none of that was working. We’d already been using white noise, blackout curtains, and a consistent bedtime routine. We started eliminating any screen time within a couple of hours of bedtime. We tried putting him to bed earlier, or later, or at a more consistent time. Nothing seemed to help! Finally, we tried giving him a very small dose of melatonin on nights when he was taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep. When that became almost every night for about two weeks, we finally decided that something had to change. We were not comfortable relying on drugs to get him to sleep!

I did some research, weeded through the sleep-training sales pitches, and finally came across an article written by a fellow attachment parent and co-sleeper, describing exactly my problem. The solution was simple, but kind of sucked: making your bedtime the same as your child’s. At first I was resistant. Cory and I have really enjoyed our hour or two of alone time to relax together at night. We also often used some of that time to catch up on chores. Losing it was not an appealing idea. Yet as I read this article, I realized the truth of the matter, which was that many nights we weren’t getting that time anymore anyway. At this point, we were spending an hour or more putting Cody to bed, and then pushing our bedtime out further and further just to have 45 minutes or less of time to ourselves. It was inefficient, stressful, and pointless.

We knew that we had two realistic choices. We could sleep train our toddler, going against our instincts as parents and undermining the strong attachment and sense of security we have built with Cody since his birth. Or, we could make another sacrifice on this parenting journey, and start going to sleep with him to put an end to his bedtime anxiety.

Attachment parenting is many things, but easy and convenient are not the words I would use. And you know what? That’s okay. Parenting shouldn’t be easy or convenient. Parenting should be about sacrifice. It’s about giving everything you have and are to raise your children to be the best they can be. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always comfortable. But boy, is it worth it. That love… it’s like nothing else.

So we followed the way of love, and gave up our alone time to help Cody have a better bedtime. It has been so much easier already. The bonus is that even though we don’t have that alone time, we do get more sleep, which I desperately need now that I’m pregnant. Plus, Cory can get up earlier in the morning and have time to himself for working on his personal projects, which works out really well considering the morning is his most productive time of day. I still get my alone time every day during his nap, which has been really good for a long time! I think it’s interesting that he has no issues going down for naps (except on the days when he randomly decides to skip it), but bedtime has been so difficult. This kid likes to keep things interesting!

Anyway, Cory and I still have time alone on the weekends during Cody’s naps, and we allow ourselves TV time in the evening even with Cody around. He’s going to be a very “cultured” child, you could say. 😉 There may be a time when we decide that “adult” TV isn’t appropriate for him, but for now, we’re okay with him being exposed to the stuff we watch. We tend to be fairly protective over what images and words and themes go into our minds anyway. But that’s a topic for another post.

As far as bedtime goes, it has been stress-free since we made the change. He still doesn’t go to sleep very quickly yet, but at least now we’re using that time to fall asleep ourselves, rather than laying awake and waiting for him to fall asleep. And I can say one thing for sure; I have been enjoying the extra sleep for myself.

We’re Expecting!

pregnancy-announcement

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope you and your family have an excellent year full of joy, growth, and life at its fullest.

This year is going to be an exciting one for my family, because we’re expecting our second baby in August!

At just six weeks pregnant, it’s amazing to know that our little baby already has a heart that’s beating and the beginnings of arms, legs, and facial features. How unbelievable is the miracle of life? God’s creative power never ceases to amaze me. We can’t wait to welcome our second babe into the world. <3